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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NBA Season Preview: Southeast Division

I hope you didn't really think those guys hooping down in South Beach were the only contenders down in the Southeast. This division sent four teams to the playoffs last season, including the Orlando Magic (2nd seed), Atlanta Hawks (3rd seed), the pre-Lebron & Chris Bosh Miami Heat (5th seed), and the Charlotte Bobcats (7th seed). Every team seemed to come back a little stronger including the Washington Wizards, who have no. 1 overall draft pick John Wall now on the roster.

This division again may send 4 teams to the playoffs, but it may not be the same four as last season. There is tons of talent here, so if you only focus on the "Big 3" then you could be missing out on some really good basketball. Here's my forecast of the division standings, worst to first (including each teams odds to win the O'Brien Trophy)

5. Charlotte Bobcats 60 to 1

Although the Bobcats finished last season with 44 victories and the 7th seed in the East, they were swept in the first round by the Magic showing they were not yet ready to contend with the big guns. I'm not sure they can duplicate that regular season success after losing Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler in free agency. 3rd year PG D.J. Augustin had a hard time staying out of Larry Brown's dog house last season, but is now the starter. He will be pushed for minutes by Shaun Livingston (if he can stay healthy). Charlotte is still athletic on the wings with Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson but depth and lack of post play could haunt them all season. But we might be able to get a few laughs out of the travesty that is Kwame Brown (who has the distinguished title of Jordan's first draft "bust".. I wonder if MJ still thinks he's "soft", hmmm)

4. Washington Wizards 60 to 1

The Wizards may want a mulligan for last season, which saw their star player the DC Sniper aka Gilbert Arenas suspended for playing with fire(arms) in the locker room. But the season wasn't a total wash as PF Andray Blatche emerged as a nice scoring threat, young center Javale McGee came on late as a force rebounding and blocking shots and they won the draft lottery and the right to draft John Wall. Wall will make an immediate impact pushing the tempo and finding his teamates for easy baskets and looked very comfortable in the pre season. I think he and Arenas can make a dangerous back court combination (if Gilbert stays focused). The Wizards also traded for vet guard Kirk Hinrich and he should bring a leadership presence to the team. If they can keep Josh Howard focused (and away from the 'trees') and Gilbert returns to shooting the lights out (I couldn't resist) the Wizards should challenge for the playoff spot that will be vacated by Charlotte. Shoot 'em up Agent 0, er, 6!

3. Atlanta Hawks 35 to 1

With all the buzz surrounding free agency during the summer you may have forgotten that the Hawks won 53 games and were the 3rd overall seed in the East. I like to think of them as "Team Bipolar" as they can blow out a team one night then get blown out themselves the next. (Sidebar: If they added Delonte West they should consider changing their name to that; kidding). But what did the Hawks do to get better? Absolutely nothing. They failed to address their point guard issue (Mike Bibby is getting up there), but the Hawks did manage to retain star Joe Johnson. I just hope he saw the Wiz of Oz and asked him for some heart. Nonetheless Atlanta should still manage to win close to 50 games and be a top 4-5 seed in the playoffs before fizzing out in the 2nd round. Ho hum.

2. Orlando Magic 8 to 1

That "other team" in Florida, the Orlando return the same core group that made it to the Conference Finals two seasons in a row, losing to Boston in 6 last year. Reigning defensive player of the year Dwight Howard has been working out with Hakeem Olajuwon, so maybe he's learning a little touch instead of throwing the basketball at the hoop as hard as possible. The Magic retained shooter J.J Redick and added the other NBA nomad Quentin Richardson (who was traded FOUR times in 2009 before playing for the Heat last season) so they have weapons on the perimeter if teams choose to double Howard. Big key will be how Chris Duhon handles the back up point spot. Should be interesting.

1. Miami Heat 8 to 5

Pressure? The Miami Heat basically asked for it. They sacrificed their whole roster for free agency, landing LeBron James during "Decision" (we here at the Blog refer to him as #6) and also bringing in sidekick Chris Bosh to join Dwayne Wade in South Beach. Now they have to prove it. The whole roster is basically new except for Wade, Joel Anthony, Carlos Arroyo, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem. They added a few shooters to spread the floor with Mike Miller (who is out until around January) and Eddie House, but there are a couple glaring issues. 1.) Depth. They have none. And 2.) who takes the big shot? Both #6 and Wade need the rock to be effective as neither is a spot up shooting threat. And Bosh, well A'mare he ain't. They may all win a title together, but I don't thing 2010-2011 is the season.

We'll see how it all play out...


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